Reflections On A Year’s Worth Of App Watching – 2010 Edition

AirAttack - Sublime Scrolling Shooter

As the year draws to a close I’ve started thinking about my time writing the weekly “10 Games To Watch” article, and I soon realized that I’ve been doing this since May of 2010.  As such I thought I’d take a few moments to reflect back on my first year’s worth of articles and point out some of my biggest hits (and worst misses).  That way, if you’re in need of a few extras games because of some new iTunes gift card burning a hole in your account, you’ll have some idea of the ones you missed that are worth checking into again – or avoiding, as the case may be.

The Hits

Pro Zombie Soccer (Round-up Date: 6/21/10) – I don’t get into sports themed games very much, whether they are meant to be true simulations or offbeat romps that have little to do with the sports they depict, but Pro Zombie Soccer was awesome.  The mechanics were cool and there was plenty to do (I don’t think I ever actually beat the game).  The visuals were excellent and a well drawn, humorous comic strip style story tied everything together.  The sound effects were actually diverse, with each zombie having its own distinct sound, and the music did a great job of complimenting the atmosphere.  I thoroughly enjoyed this game back when I reviewed it on my iPod Touch, and now that I’ve finally got an iPad I look forward to smashing some zombie brains with a soccer ball on a much bigger screen. [My Review On iPhone Life]

Pro Zombie Soccer Chillingo, Pro Zombie Soccer, – $0.99

Helsing’s Fire (Round-up Date: 7/12/10) – There are so many puzzle games available on iOS devices these days that it’s almost impossible to weed out the good from the bad.  Here’s one of the best.  To this day the game’s light and color based puzzles are unique to the genre as far as I know.  The 120 level campaign mode provided more than enough content to begin with, but over time the developers added two more modes to give you a staggering amount of game play.  The visuals were top notch and had a style that made them stand out and the sound effects and music did much to evoke a fun yet eerie atmosphere.  If you have the opportunity I’d suggest giving the iPad version of this beauty a try, simply because it would probably be a bit easier to position the torches on a bigger screen.  It still provides for an incredible experience on the iPhone/iPod Touch, however, and no matter which route you go I’ll stick to the assessment in my original review that the only real issue was that there was no voiceover work for the characters.

Helsing's Fire, Helsing’s Fire (TMA Review), – $0.99

The Train Episode 1 (Round-up Date: 11/22/10) – Some of my earliest memories of playing computer games revolve around the adventure game genre, so I tend to have a special fondness for the genre.  Unfortunately there hasn’t be a ton of original content in said genre when it comes to the iOS platform, but The Train has been one pleasant exception.  The plot is quite interesting, and by the end you really want to know more about the main characters and the history between them.  The visuals and sound effects aren’t stellar but they certainly get the job done, and the music is very apropos for the pacing of the game.  The game was filled with inventory based puzzles and mini-games, some of which were quite challenging.  While it got frustrating at times, it was overall a nice change from the hidden object games that seem to fill up the adventure category these days.  The second episode has an even more intriguing story, though I felt like the game wasn’t as robust as the first installment.  There has also been an overhaul of episode 1 that doubled its game play since I wrote my review, so I’m eager to see what all the new version of The Train has in store for me. [My Review On TechnoBrains]

The Train episode 01 The Moonwalls, The Train episode 01 (TMA Review), – $0.99

Puzzle Quest 2 (Round-up Date: 12/13/10) – I’m a big fan of match 3 games, but the reality is that once you get past the gimmicks most variants offer like power ups and such, there’s really nothing different about the game play.  Then Puzzle Quest came along and did something I never would have imagined – it combined the character building and customization of an RPG with combat that was accomplished using a match 3 mechanic!  I didn’t expect things to get much better than that, but luckily Puzzle Quest 2 proved me wrong.  It certainly wasn’t perfect, as the small UI on the iPod Touch screen was often hard to navigate, loading screens were frequent, and occasional lock ups meant replaying certain battles.  Still, the isometric view – with rooms to navigate and NPCs to talk to – made it feel much more like an RPG than its predecessor.  The match 3 mechanic was as solid as ever and the battles kept me on the edge of my seat.  The visuals were stunning and the soundtrack was right on the money.  I only hope that we see a part 3 to up the ante once again.

Puzzle Quest 2 Namco Networks America, Puzzle Quest 2 (TMA Review), – $2.99

Bug Heroes (Round-up Date: 1/10/11) – I was already a fan of Foursaken Media thanks to N.Y.Zombies (TMA Review), and Bug Heroes just sealed the deal for me.  This game is part castle defense, part dual stick shooter, and all cool.  You play in a variety of different “real world” locales, and each requires you to defend your home base against hordes of unscrupulous bugs.  To keep things safe while you’re away you can enhance the base’s offense and defense capabilities, but the true defense comes from the fact that you directly control up to 10 different bug allies that know how to wield weapons (there were only 3 when I reviewed the game, and it was awesome even then).  The visuals are great and the characters are all voiced well.  This was worth the price of admission when it first came out, but now thanks to Bug Heroes Quest the original is free, so there’s no reason not to pick it up.

Bug Heroes Foursaken Media, Bug Heroes (TMA Review), – Free

Tiny Wings (Round-up Date: 2/28/11) – The week this should have been in the roundup I passed it by, because quite honestly it didn’t sound all that appealing to me.  Then I kept reading comment after comment about how wonderful it was, so I finally broke down and bought it.  I loved it so much I added it to the next week’s round up, almost like an apology for neglecting it the first time around.  The game is a simple matter of keeping a bird awake as long as possible by flying and sliding it over randomly generated hills.  It sounds too basic to be fun, but there’s something about that simplicity combined with the wonderful background song that almost makes the game serene.  You will tire of it eventually, but you’ll have gotten far more than your 99 cents worth out of it before that happens.  [My Review On TechnoBrains]

Tiny Wings Andreas Illiger, Tiny Wings (TMA Review), – $0.99

Monster Dash (Round-up Date: 8/23/10) – There have certainly been plenty of “infinite running” games on the iOS platform, but few for me had the longevity of Monster Dash.  I don’t know if it was the cute B-movie monster adversaries, the witty comments Barry would make when you finally succumbed to failure or the fine assortment of weaponry, but this one had me hooked for quite a while.  I wish there would have been some Barry quips while you were playing, since he definitely has a Duke Nukem feel about him, but otherwise there wasn’t much to complain about with this one.  Every now and again a new infinite runner comes along that slightly outdoes this one, including Barry’s third outing Jetpack Joyride, but this is still one of the best.  [My Review On TechnoBrains]

Monster Dash Halfbrick Studios, Monster Dash, – $0.99

AirAttack (Round-up Date: 7/19/10) – In the Duds section I point out a couple of examples on how not to make a scrolling shooter.  On the other hand, Air Attack is one of the best examples of how to do it right.  There was nothing revolutionary about the game play, but instead the developers took tested scrolling shooter practices and basically perfected them in this game.  Better yet, they did it without ever resorting to “bullet hell” tactics, and it was still challenging.  There are plenty of power ups, and they didn’t all feel like variations on the same thing.  The graphics were among the best the genre had to offer, and the music was quite grand in scale.  The most amazing part was that the game ran so well on my iPod Touch 2G, even with 3G devices available and 4G on the way.  Nowadays it seems like so many games don’t even run well on the current generation of machines.

AirAttack Art In Games, AirAttack (TMA Review), – $0.99

The Duds

1942: First Strike (Round-up Date: 7/5/10) – Quite often when I’m playing a scrolling shooter I think to myself “I wonder how this will compare to 1942?”  Of course I’m talking about the original Capcom classic that graced the arcades in 1984, and which I still seek out today and play if I can find a unit.  Unfortunately, I don’t think the developers behind this modern interpretation actually ever played the original.  The game was way too easy, as even with 8 distinct levels I managed to beat it on my second try.  The graphics were weak, the sound effects grating, and the music sub-par, especially given the soundtracks that some iOS shooters churn out.  When one of the forerunners of an incredible genre of games has the chance to shine again, it’s a real shame that this is the result.

1942: FIRST STRIKE Beeline Europe, 1942: FIRST STRIKE (TMA Review), – $0.99

Phoenix (Round-up Date: 10/25/10) – Yeah I’m picking on the scrolling shooter genre a bit, but this just happens to be where some of my biggest letdowns have been.  This should have been the perfect shooter for one main reason; it had an adjustable difficulty setting that would make the game adapt to how well you played it.  Ironically, that part actually worked pretty well.  Unfortunately, the game that surrounded that mechanic was boring.  In order to really facilitate the dynamic difficulty the “levels” were randomly generated, which makes the game feel pretty haphazard.  Add to that the fact that there really were no levels and that the bosses didn’t feel any different than any other enemy, and you’ve basically eliminated anything that makes a scrolling shooter fun.  The background graphics were bland, and while the ships had some interesting designs the colors were totally cheesy.  The music didn’t fit the game and was too quiet to be useful.  Overall this was a “should’ve been” that just plain wasn’t.

Phoenix Firi Games, Phoenix (TMA Review), – $0.99

And the biggest Dud of the year goes to:

Castlevania Puzzle: Encore Of The Night (Round-up Date: 7/19/10) – While not a junkie or anything, I’m certainly a fan of the Castlevania series, and it actually somewhat pained me to play this game.  The castle you were exploring felt awfully empty, and then when you did find something to fight it was a one off affair, rather than the typical room full of bad guys that frequent the dwellings of most Castlevania games.  While it was interesting to see them try a “match 3 meets Tetris” twist on combat, it once again robbed the player of the true Castlevania whip and projectile experience.  Not to mention the fact the combat field was so small that it was easy to make mistakes at inopportune times.  The graphics were mediocre at best, and that’s being kind, and the sound effects were pretty blah.  On the plus side the music was actually quite good.  In the end though, this game’s biggest flaw was the Castlevania name.  Had this been just another Konami game (with upgraded audio / visual elements, of course) it might not have been so bad, but when you’re expecting Castlevania this is certainly not the kind of game you asked for.

Castlevania Puzzle: Encore of the Night Konami, Castlevania Puzzle: Encore of the Night (TMA Review), – $0.99

As we approach the New Year, I hope this gives you some insight into a few games that you might want to go back and check out, especially if you’re new to the iOS scene.  There were certainly more games I could have included, and many that never made it into the round ups that are worth your time, effort and money, but that’s for another time…

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